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Meet 18-year-old Nasra, Somalia’s First and Only Female Auto Mechanic

When Nasra Hussain Ibrahim was 11, she realized she’d have to do something drastic if her family was to survive.

They lived in Hiran, a rough-and-tumble region in south-central Somalia amidst the rule of al Shabaab, a hard-line al-Qaeda-linked group, and chaotic fighting between local clans. There, militants forcibly recruit children to fight, take over and shutter schools, rape and marry off girls to fighters, and impose a warped, violent version of Islam. Those who don’t obey can face execution by stoning.

Growing up, there often wasn’t enough to eat for Nasra and her family. Her father is elderly—she estimates he’s 90 years old. And like most women in Somalia, her mother—at least half her husband’s age—doesn’t work.

Nasra, the second eldest in a family of six kids, started selling snacks and farming when she was eight to help make ends meet. Every day was a struggle.

“When I saw the situation of my family, I saw I needed to leave,” she recalled.

Nasra’s sweet demeanor, sparkling eyes and broad smile mask a layer of toughness. It’s this toughness that helped her survive when, three years ago at age 15, she snuck out of her parents’ house and risked everything in search of opportunity. She found it in a place no other woman has in Somalia: a garage.

At age 18, Nasra is Somalia’s first and only female car mechanic.

It all began with a broken-down car. Nasra had hitched a ride east after leaving her family home with sights set on the capital, Mogadishu, some 200 miles away.

By road, the trip usually takes two days and two nights. But car trouble stalled her journey, stretching out an already dangerous trip to 10 days and leaving her waiting by the side of the road, hungry, for the car to be fixed.

Despite the very real threats of rape and robbery, Nasra said she was not afraid. “I felt guarded because my parents always pray for me,” she said.

Her mother cried tears of relief when Nasra called to tell her she was alive, in Mogadishu. They worried she had gone to risk the dangerous sea passage to Europe like thousands of others Somalis before her, some of whom drowned before ever making it to the other side.

In this nation in the Horn of Africa, youth unemployment is at almost 70 percent, and people are desperate for opportunity. “A lot of people from my village—men and women—leave to go to Yemen and Libya,” Nasra told Glamour.In 2012, Nasra’s cousin Rahma died in the water off the coast of Libya on a boat bound for Italy. She was 21.

Nasra might not have jumped on a dinghy to cross the Mediterranean, but she took a leap all the same.

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[Photo Credit: What Took You So Long]
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